What makes Andy Dalton nervous?
“Nothing as far as I can tell,” said center Kyle Cook.
“Maybe when his wife calls and he’s late getting home from meetings. That might be about it,” said backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. “I’ll have to think about that one – I’ll keep a closer eye on him.”
With three fourth quarter comebacks in his first eight NFL starts, Dalton doesn’t appear to get the jitters when the game is on the line, but what about normal nerve-racking stuff like speaking in front of a big group or standing at the altar on his wedding day?
“Public speaking maybe a little bit,” Dalton told me with a laugh. “My wedding day didn’t make me nervous. I knew that I loved her and that she loved me. It was fun more than anything.”
Maybe his nickname should be “The Relaxed Rifle.”
To put Dalton’s first eight NFL games into perspective, Andy already has as many fourth quarter comeback victories (3) as Aaron Rodgers has in his career. The all-time leader in fourth quarter comebacks – according to Pro-Football-Reference.com – is Peyton Manning with 35 and Manning didn’t get his third until his 21st career game. The next two quarterbacks on the all-time list, Dan Marino and John Elway, both pulled off their third 4th quarter comeback victory in the 11th game of their second season.
While it appears that nothing rattles the rookie from TCU, he does admit to occasionally feeling butterflies in his gut.
“There have been times where I was nervous playing football, but the more prepared that I am, the more confident I feel, and the less nerves there are,” said Dalton. “I feel like I stay pretty calm throughout. I think a lot of that has to due with the preparation that I put into it.”
This week, Dalton is busy preparing for his first matchup with Dick LeBeau and the Pittsburgh Steelers. As Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson pointed out this week, rookie quarterbacks are 1-11 vs. the Steelers with 7 TD passes and 12 INT since LeBeau became the defensive coordinator in 2004.
“They’re going to give you a lot of looks,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “The things that they do now and that Dick started have spread across the NFL, so there’s nothing that we’re going to see this week that we haven’t already seen. The configurations are things that we see every week so I think a little too much is made of that. The Steelers are doing it with good players and guys that anticipate and understand and are used to playing together. They’ve been doing it for a long time and they do it at a very high speed.”
Facing the Steelers for the first time is a formidable challenge, but Dalton has rarely come up short since becoming the starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman at TCU. Between the Bengals and Horned Frogs, Andy is 48-9 as a starting QB.
“What he’s doing is not a surprise to me, but I’d be a liar if I said that I knew he’d be doing this as a rookie,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson told reporters this week. “I think the city of Cincinnati likes how Andy Dalton is a great role model for how you want to do things down the road. Andy Dalton is trying right now to be the best he can be.”
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I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 and Artrell Hawkins and me for “Bengals Pep Rally” on Friday afternoon from 2:30 to 5:30 live from the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash. Both shows can be heard on ESPN 1530-AM.
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